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An Economist Ponders How Fast Old Men Slow Down


Economic Trends

AN ECONOMIST PONDERS HOW FAST OLD MEN SLOW DOWN

Joggers, take note. In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Yale University economist Ray Fair seeks to answer the question: "How fast do old men slow down?"

Using econometric techniques, Fair analyzes data on men's track and field records by age. For most of the running events (400 meters to a half marathon), he finds that the slowdown rate averages about 0.8% a year between the ages of 35 and 51, and then increases to about 1% a year by age 60, 1.5% by age 75, and 2% by age 95. The slowdown rate is smaller for shorter distances and larger for field events such as the shot put and discus throw.

Why should all this concern an economist? Fair is struck by how small the slowdown rates are. Perhaps, he muses, they have something to tell us about productivity loss with age. "Or maybe," he adds, "the numbers are only of interest to old runners as they run ever more slowly into the sunset."GENE KORETZ


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